First drive: Peugeot 308
25 October 2021
Author: Pete Tullin
Peugeot designers deliver another striking piece of kinetic art, but does the 308 have the substance to back up the style?
|16in alloy wheels, eight-speed automatic gearbox, rear parking sensors, electric and heated mirrors, climate control, LED running lights, DAB radio, Apple Carplay, Android Auto|
|Petrol:|| 130hp 1.2|
|Plug-in hybrid:|| 180hp 1.6, 225hp 1.6|
|Diesel:|| 1.5 4cyl 130hp |
|Active Premium, Allure, Allure Premium, GT, GT Premium|
With so many companies under one enormous Stellantis group umbrella, and many producing very similar products, market positioning will be key to the future success or failure of each brand.
Peugeot is among the first to nail its colours to the mast, declaring itself a natural rival to Volkswagen. That's some claim, especially when you consider this places the all-new 308 hatchback and SW estate directly in the firing line of the all-conquering Golf.
Time was many may have scoffed at this notion, but the latest 308's is a night and day better proposition than its rather lacklustre predecessor. Its imaginative interior, slinky exterior styling and vibrant colour pallet combined conspire to make the Golf's twin-set and pearls approach seem distinctly black and white in an increasingly technicolour world.
Of course, Peugeot's i-cockpit remains a bone of contention. While there's no denying its showroom wow factor, and this latest version is far easier to navigate than the Rubik's Cube infotainment system found in a Golf, the driving position aspects remains a bit of a Marmite proposition.
If it works for you, then great, but the prospect of driving with the seat raised to its max with the dinky sports steering wheel resting on your lap in order to view the main instrumentation may still prove a step too far for those who don't fall into the requisite leg to body length ratio. Try before you buy would be our advice.
In its defence, the i-cockpit's clearly defined 3D instrumentation and super-fast reacting touchscreen, complete with large, icons, supplemented by rows of hard key shortcuts, are right up there among the best of these multilayered systems.
If this and the stylistic appeal doesn't start alarm bells ringing in Wolfsburg, then 308's refinement most certainly will. This is especially true of all-new plug-in hybrid models.
With an electric-only driving range of 37-miles for both the 180 and 225hp versions, these models offer effortlessly strong EV performance but what really makes them shine is their exceptionally hushed driving manners. With dense soundproofing, all but eliminating road and wind noise, and a near-total absence of electric motoring whine, the 308 is as refined as many a top dollar limo.
Supplemented by Peugeot's punchy, free-revving and admirably vibration-free 1.6-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol engines, the transitions between electric and petrol power are also all but seamless.
As undeniably impressive as these factors are, the reactions from the regenerative brakes are frustratingly inconsistent and the standard eight-speed automatic gearbox becomes increasingly jerky once the battery power is depleted. Our best guess is that this is because the job of a traditional torque convertor is undertaken by the electric motor and a single hydraulically operated clutch plate. Consequently, once the additional calming influence of in-fill torque assistance supplied by the battery is spent, things tend to get a wee bit discombobulated.
Additional gripes include the hybrid's steering, which isn't particularly well connected around the straight-ahead, so it often requires small steadying corrections at motorway speeds to maintain a steady course. This lack of connection can also be sensed when transitioning through a series of bends creating a slightly lost sensation, but compensations come in the guise of levels of reassuring grip a smooth ride quality and well-controlled body lean. To be fair, the cars we've driven were pre-production and as the 308 won't arrive in the UK until early next year, Peugeot still has time to address these gremlins.
Overall then, perhaps the biggest compliment we can pay the 308 is to say it is a vast improvement over its predecessor and if the items we've highlighted can be addressed, and providing you can get on with the driving position, then the 308 hybrid should definitely be on your radar come 2022.
Peugeot 308 GT Premium 180 plug-in hybrid
On sale: Now open for order, first deliveries Jan 2022
Fuel consumption: 281.1mpg
CO2 (BIK %): 30g/km (13%)
Luggage capacity: 361 litres
Engine size/power: 1598cc 150hp + 81kW electric motor